Paper presented by
Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Defence
Strategic Tides in Asia
Strategic Opportunities and Challenges
Annual Seminar Dinner 2011
22 September 2011
Thank you Alan (Titheridge) for your warm welcome and thank you Miles (Jakeman) for your introductory remarks.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a pleasure to be at the Kokoda Foundation Annual Seminar Dinner for 2011.
In a short period, the Kokoda Foundation has established itself as a think tank with a serious contribution to the national debate on critical strategic issues facing Australia over the years and decades ahead.
The Foundation is, for example, currently undertaking valuable research on future Defence capabilities, maritime security and global resource security.
I am pleased that Professor Ross Babbage has joined us tonight.
Those here know the key role Ross played in the formation of the Kokoda Foundation. His mentoring and leadership has shaped the Foundation into a significant organisation that informs strategic and national security debate and helps shape the strategic thinkers of the future.
I am told today’s Young Strategic Leader’s Professional Development Workshop was over-subscribed. Nurturing strategic and national security leaders for the future is important work and I commend the Foundation for bringing together experienced practitioners to share their knowledge and wisdom with an enthusiastic group of young leaders interested in strategic and national security policy.
The theme of this year’s Seminar Dinner – Strategic Tides in Asia – Challenges and Opportunities – could not be more timely or opportune.
This theme was a key feature of discussions at last week’s annual Australia United States Ministerial (AUSMIN) consultations in San Francisco and will no doubt be a key feature when leaders gather in Bali in November for the first expanded East Asia Summit, now including the United States and Russia.
Historic shift towards Asia
In this century, the Asia-Pacific will become the world’s centre of gravity.
The rise of China is a defining element of Asia’s growing influence, but it is far from the only or whole story.
Everyone sees the rise of China but the rise of India is still underappreciated, as is the impact of the rise of the ASEAN economies combined.
The major and enduring economic strengths of Japan and South Korea also need to be acknowledged.
So must the great individual potential of Indonesia – as it emerges from a regional to a global influence.
The ongoing shift in influence is, however, not just about economics or demographics, it is also about military power.
The Asia-Pacific is home to four of the world’s major powers and five of the world’s largest militaries – the United States, Russia, China, India, and North Korea.
The implications of this historic shift continue to unfold.
Some seem to implicitly assume that the economic and strategic influence of the United States, the world’s largest economy and superpower, will somehow be rapidly eclipsed overnight as a result of the new distribution of power.
That is not Australia’s view.
In Australia’s view, the United States has underwritten stability in the Asia-Pacific for the past half century and will continue to be the single most important strategic actor in our region for the foreseeable future, both in its own right and through its network of alliances and security relationships, including with Australia.
This stability has enabled economic and social development and prosperity, as well as the creation of a regional framework based on APEC and ASEAN.
Present and Future Challenges
With the rise of the Asia-Pacific region comes a range of challenges.
Some have been with us for years. Others are more recent, non-traditional security challenges.
Our region sees a number of conventional security problems, some of which, like the Korean Peninsula, are leftovers of past conflicts and others stem from past grievances and unresolved territorial disputes.
Amidst continuing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, we commemorated the 60th Anniversary of the Battle of Kapyong earlier this year.
It was for its actions in the Battle of Kapyong that the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, was awarded a US Presidential Citation for “extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance of combat duties in action” in helping stop the Chinese Communist Army’s final attempted breakthrough to Seoul.
Almost sixty years later, in November of last year, we saw the shelling of Yeonpyeong-Do Island. This followed reports of North Korea developing a sophisticated uranium enrichment program in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions and the earlier North Korean attack on the South Korean corvette Cheonan which claimed 46 lives.
These events have been deeply troubling and threaten stability on the Korean Peninsula and North Asia.
Tensions have also increased over maritime and territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas.
This has been an issue of some concern throughout the region and was also a key issue of discussion at AUSMIN.
Australia and the United States reiterated our national interest, along with the international community, in freedom of navigation, the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, and unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea.
We also reaffirmed that we do not take a position on the competing territorial claims in the South China Sea and called on nations to clarify and pursue their territorial claims and accompanying maritime rights in accordance with international law, including the Law of the Sea Convention.
Australia and the United States reaffirmed our support for the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and encouraged each of the parties to comply with their commitments, including exercising self-restraint and resolving their disputes through peaceful means, and to make progress towards a binding code of conduct.
We also reiterated our opposition to the use of coercion or force to advance the claims of any party or interfere with legitimate economic activity.
In July, Australia welcomed the ASEAN and China agreement on a set of guidelines to implement the ASEAN Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. This is a good starting point but more needs to be done.
India and the Indian Ocean
India’s role and place in the Asia Pacific Century continues to be under-appreciated.
In my first speech as a Minister I said Australia needed to engage more with India.
I also said that Australia and the region needed to look west as well as east.
I have also said that the Australia-India relationship is like a Twenty-20 cricket game whereas it should be more like a Test match.
That is, we need to move from a relationship of fits and starts and short bursts of enthusiasm followed by lengthy periods of inactivity to a relationship where we work with diligence, dedication, application and perseverance day in and day out to extend the partnership.
I made these points on Wednesday when I met with a delegation of senior Indian security, diplomatic and academic leaders, led by India’s Deputy National Security Adviser Vijay Latha Reddy and former Foreign Secretary Ambassador Shyam Saran.
The delegation visited Australia to participate in the Lowy Institute for International Policy’s 2011 Australia India Roundtable in Sydney earlier this week.
I expressed my regret to the delegation that I was unable to deliver the keynote address at the Roundtable as I was not granted a pair from the Parliament by the Opposition.
India is of course the largest democracy in the world.
As India assumes the mantle of global influence accorded to it by its democratic status, growing economy and capacity, its strategic weight in the world will naturally increase.
India is now rightly making its voice heard in the corridors of regional and international fora.
India has global interests, but India’s expanding strategic role has increasingly focused on our shared Asian neighbourhood.
This is a natural progression of the imaginative and valuable ‘Look East’ policy launched by former President Narasimha Rao in the 1990s.
The critical strategic importance of the Indian Ocean is substantially underappreciated.
The countries of the Indian Ocean Rim are home to more than 2.6 billion people, almost 40 per cent of the world’s population.
The Indian Ocean is the largest body of water in the world and Australia has the largest maritime jurisdiction of any Indian Ocean country.
The security of its waters goes to the heart of global, regional and Australian strategic interests.
The proportion of world energy supplies passing through critical transport choke points, including the Straits of Malacca, the Straits of Hormuz and the Suez Canal will increase in the coming years.
The Indian Ocean already ranks among the busiest highways for global trade. It will become a crucial global trading thoroughfare in the future. Australia and India have common interests in securing and exploiting these trading routes.
Crucial trading routes, the presence of large and growing naval capabilities, as well as transnational security issues such as piracy, drive Australia to put the Indian Ocean alongside the Pacific Ocean at the heart of our maritime strategic and defence planning.
In recognition of this imperative, Australia has joined the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), an initiative of the Indian Navy.
Australia will host the IONS Conclave of Chiefs in Perth in 2014.
India and Australia have also joined to take leadership in the region. With India the current Chair and Australia the Vice Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), we are jointly leading efforts to further develop the regional security architecture of the Indian Ocean, with a particular focus on maritime security.
After India’s two year period as Chair of IOR-ARC, Australia will then take over as Chair for a further period of two years, and Indonesia thereafter. This will give Australia, India and Indonesia a good opportunity to work together to develop the regional security architecture role of IOR-ARC.
Bilateral defence and security relationship with India
I am optimistic about the future of the Australia-India defence and security relationship.
In signing the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation in 2009, Australia and India affirmed our shared desire to promote regional and global security, as well as our common commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
The challenge now is to follow through.
This is why I proposed to Defence Minister Antony that Australia and India institute an Annual Defence Minister’s dialogue. I look forward to my first visit to India as Defence Minister planned for later this year.
As Foreign Minister I set myself the challenge of travelling to India on an annual basis and this is a commitment I intend to carry through as Defence Minister.
Senior political engagement is important, as is the strengthening of links between our defence forces. Our Chiefs of Defence Force have instigated a regular dialogue and we have increased the seniority and frequency of the bilateral defence strategic dialogue.
In recent years, our defence forces have begun to engage in joint exercises, particularly maritime exercises. Military engagement is now occurring across the full range of activities, including ship visits, professional exchanges, and collaboration in research and development. There is much more that can, and will, be done in the fields of law enforcement and scientific and technical cooperation.
Strategic engagement has involved a number of high-level visits and ongoing strategic dialogue between Australia and India. Australia’s Chief of the Defence Force and India’s Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee commenced a formal strategic dialogue in 2008.
Inaugural Army staff talks were conducted in February last year, followed by the fifth iteration of Navy staff talks in April this year. Our Chief of Defence Force visited India in April 2010 and India’s Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee visited Australia in March this year. Inaugural Defence Policy Talks were held in India in December last year.
Each year we offer Indian Officers positions on the Australian Command and Staff Course and the Defence and Strategic Studies Course. Last year, an Indian Officer also participated in the Foreign Academy Exchange Program with the Royal Military College, Duntroon.
Australia also invites Indian Officers to undertake Joint Warfare studies, Aviation Safety, Maritime Security Cooperation and Emergency Management courses. The exchanges are two way. Australia sends Australian Defence Force personnel to the National Defence University and the Indian Staff Course in New Delhi, as well as participating in short course training opportunities.
Our service to service links are strong. Our Navy to Navy relationship continues to grow—a natural progression given our shared maritime security interests as Indian Ocean littoral states. Recent examples of this include the Indian Navy Destroyer INS Rana’s visit to Australia in June 2010. In January last year, a Royal Australian Navy vessel participated in maritime exercise MILAN in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
I will explore options with Minister Antony to further deepen the people to people links between our national security bodies when we meet in India later in the year.
The continuing rise of China is part of the defining change in the world order.
Australia is positive and optimistic about China’s emergence. Australia wants, as the Chinese would say, China to emerge into a harmonious environment or as Bob Zoellick would say to be a responsible stakeholder.
With this rise comes added strategic responsibilities for China, including the need for greater openness and transparency in relation to capabilities and strategic doctrine.
Australia has committed to developing strong and positive military and defence relations with China through dialogue and practical activities.
As part of our growing military cooperation with China, the Royal Australian Navy Frigate HMAS Warramunga conducted reciprocal visits in September last year to the Chinese ports of Qingdao and Zhanjiang. During her visit HMAS Warramunga successfully completed the first live firing exercise of its kind with the Chinese Navy off the coast of China. HMAS Warramunga also conducted joint helicopter operations, search and rescue drills and personnel exchanges.
As HMAS Warramunga’s Commanding Officer Commander Legge said at the time, “There is nothing more effective than working closely together in a military exercise to build trust and friendship between Navies and nations.”
At the same time, two PLA-Navy ships, the training ship Zhenghe and frigate Mianyang, conducted reciprocal visits to Sydney and Darwin. In a historic first, the PLA Navy extended an invitation for two Australian Midshipmen from the Australian Defence Force Academy to join the training ship Zhenghe on her journey from Auckland to Sydney.
In December last year, the Secretary of our Department of Defence and our Chief of the Defence Force held the 13th Defence Strategic Dialogue with the Chief of the General Staff of the PLA, General Chen Bingde, in Nantong in China.
This followed the 2010 visit to Australia by General Guo Boxiong, China’s most senior uniformed military officer.
Australia values these senior visits and exchanges and the opportunity to have frank and open conversations in issues of mutual concern and to exchange views on areas of common interest.
Indeed, at AUSMIN, Australia and the United States agreed to encourage stable, healthy, reliable and continuous military-to-military relations with China, featuring open, transparent and substantive discussions of capabilities and intentions.
Australia’s bilateral defence and security partnership with Japan is growing in strength. Australia’s so-called 2+2 dialogue with Japan – a joint meeting between Foreign and Defence Ministers – is the first formal Foreign and Defence Strategic Dialogue that Australia entered into in Asia. The 2+2 dialogue reflects our shared perspectives of regional and global security, as well as our shared values.
In May last year Australia and Japan took a significant step toward further improving bilateral security cooperation by signing an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement, the ACSA, which will enable logistics support between Australian and Japanese forces cooperating in international operations, such as peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. This is the first such agreement that Japan has signed outside of its Alliance relationship with the United States.
Australia’s support to Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami has been an important reaffirmation of the comprehensive Australia-Japan strategic, security and economic partnership and also the growing strength and capability of our trilateral cooperation with the United States.
At one stage during the relief operation Australia had three C-17 aircraft in Japan providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief support. In another historic first, Australian C-17 aircraft transported Japanese Self Defence Force personnel and equipment to the disaster zone to begin the relief effort.
Australian C-17 strategic lift aircraft worked closely with the United States Forces Japan Air Operations Command in providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. This was also a historic first and a very practical demonstration of Australia-Japan-United States Trilateral Strategic Cooperation and the benefit this can provide to the region in responding to an emergency situation of this size.
Australia’s collaboration with the Republic of Korea on defence and security extends back to the Korean War and has taken on renewed strength in recent years.
In 2009 Australia and Korea signed a Joint Statement for Enhanced Global and Security Cooperation. This was Korea’s first such bilateral security declaration with a country other than the United States. It commits Australia and Korea to deepening our cooperation on defence and security matters and on regional as well as bilateral issues.
Australia and Korea share a common interest in the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific, and especially the Korean Peninsula.
Australia was pleased to be able to participate in the international investigation in the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan and to present those findings to the United Nations Security Council.
Australia was also pleased to observe – in our capacity as a contributing nation to the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC) – the joint South Korean and United States naval exercise in the Yellow Sea in November last year and a subsequent South Korean live fire exercise from Yeonpyeong-Do Island in December.
The Importance of Regional Architecture
Australia has greatly benefited from the Asia-Pacific region’s long period of peace, security, stability and prosperity.
We owe this in great part to the creation and growth of regional institutions like ASEAN and its related forums, institutions that continue to build habits of dialogue and cooperation in the region.
But we also owe it to efforts of successive Australian governments, to shape Australia’s strategic environment in cooperation with our regional partners.
Australia’s contemporary, comprehensive relationship with China, for example, has been underpinned by the Whitlam Government’s recognition of the People’s Republic of China in 1972, when it was not necessarily fashionable to do so.
The Hawke Government’s push for APEC’s establishment in a rapidly growing region built consensus around open markets, trade and investment.
The Keating Government’s elevation of APEC to a Leaders-led organisation consolidated APEC as a driving force for economic growth and prosperity in the region.
Since coming to office, the Rudd and Gillard governments have both advocated the need for a regional Leaders’ meeting which can consider both strategic and security matters, as well as economic matters, with all the relevant countries of our region in the same room at the same time.
That is why Australia strongly supported the inaugural meeting of the ASEAN Plus Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM Plus) in Hanoi in October last year.
That is why we very much welcome the entry of the United States and Russia into an expanded East Asia Summit (EAS) this year. The United States and Russia joined with ASEAN countries plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea.
Presidents and Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers and Defence Ministers from all key countries in the region now all meet to discuss the full gamut of issues, from the economy and trade and investment through to peace and security and defence.
The ADMM Plus creates an institution in which Defence Ministers of the region can have a conversation about the full range of peace and security matters.
The Asia-Pacific region is critically dependent on seaborne trade for its dynamic economic growth.
It is vital for trade, investment and prosperity purposes that these sea lanes be protected from potential threats such as piracy or maritime terrorism.
The establishment of the ADMM Plus is an opportunity to move our regional security cooperation beyond humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
It will allow the region to cooperatively tackle the emerging peace, stability and security challenges that will inevitably rise in the years to come.
Australia welcomes the opportunity to co-chair with Malaysia the maritime expert working group of the ADMM plus and I was pleased to welcome the delegates to the first meeting of the working group in Perth in July.
Australia is also working with Malaysia in the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) along with New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom. The FPDA was established in 1971 to deal with the conventional security threats of the time.
Today, the FPDA retains conventional capabilities while also adapting to deal with modern non-convention challenges, such as counter-terrorism, maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
The growth and development of the United States Alliance
In its 60th year, the Australia-United States Alliance is the indispensable, enduring feature of Australia’s strategic and security arrangements.
Since the first formative meeting of Australia’s great World War Two Prime Minister – John Curtin – and the United State’s great World War Two President – Franklin Roosevelt – in South Carolina on Anzac Day 25 April 1944, the Alliance has been supported and developed by both major political parties on both sides of the Pacific: Labor and Liberal, Democrat and Republican.
Since the Battle of Hamel on Independence Day 4 July 1918 – the first occasion on which Australia and United States forces fought together and on that day under the command of Australia’s greatest General John Monash – Australia has stood side by side with the United States in every major war the United States has fought in the past century, including the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Iraq and now in Afghanistan.
That is a unique record.
The formal Alliance that has underpinned our unique record of shared commitments has changed but the commitment remains unflinching.
With the Asia-Pacific region going through a period of significant geopolitical change, it is important to ensure that our Alliance continues to grow and develop to meet the strategic and security challenges we face.
Curtin laid the ground work for such an approach in his Call to America speech in December 1941, when he encouraged Australia to think through problems itself and to apply an independent and creative approach to international challenges.
He articulated a clear-eyed vision of Australia’s place in the world, supporting a new global order based on international law and setting the stage for our Alliance relationship with the United States.
Curtin was pragmatic, hard-headed and far-sighted when it came to protecting and defending Australia’s national security interests.
He forged a close and essential relationship with the United States, one that has matured into the friendship and the Alliance that we see today.
He also forged a practical new framework for Australia’s security in the face of the terrible challenges of World War Two.
In doing so Curtin negotiated the parallel demands of Australia’s history and Australia’s strategic imperatives through a process of invention and innovation.
This year's Australia-United States Ministerial consultations (AUSMIN) marked the 60th anniversary of our alliance, an alliance between Australia and the United States which was forged in the battle for Australia, the battle in the Pacific, in the Second World War.
To mark this historical occasion during my AUSMIN visit to the United States, I laid a wreath at the USS San Francisco Memorial in honour of the United States role in the Battle for Australia. This followed the commemoration in Australia on 7 September of the Battle for Australia Day.
Based on cooperation forged in that battle for the Pacific in the Second World War, in 1951 came our formal Alliance with the United States.
Our predecessors who signed the Alliance in 1951 would not have envisaged that 10 years ago, the Alliance would be invoked formally for the first occasion in the face of international terrorism in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. The Alliance was invoked against a non-state actor, rather than a nation-state.
Our predecessors would not have envisaged that 60 years on we would resolve formally that an attack on the United States or an attack against Australia in cyberspace could itself invoke the treaty. This demonstrates the ongoing relevance of the ANZUS Treaty and its responsiveness to new and emerging security challenges
Consistent with this historical approach and in the best spirit of our relationship, then United States Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and I agreed at AUSMIN in Melbourne last year to establish a bilateral working group to identify options flowing out of the US Global Force Posture Review to align Australian and United States force postures in ways that are of benefit to both our countries’ national security.
The strategic focus of our discussions with the United States is to the north of Australia, and to the strategically important arc running from the Indian Ocean through to the Asia Pacific region.
At AUSMIN, Secretary Panetta and I noted that our officials have refined and assessed a range of potential cooperative initiatives, including:
• options for increased United States access to Australian training, exercise and test ranges;
• the prepositioning of United States equipment in Australia;
• options for greater use by the United States of Australian facilities and ports; and
• options for joint and combined activities in the region.
The discussions have acknowledged that our respective military forces must be postured to respond in a timely and effective way to the range of contingencies that may arise in our region, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and to enhance our ability to work with the armed forces of regional partners.
This is what I colloquially or anecdotally describe as the possibility of more ships in and out, more planes in and out, and potentially more troops in and out on training and exercises.
Last week, Secretary Panetta and I expressed our satisfaction with the progress that has been made and directed that the options be further developed for consideration by our respective Governments.
I made the point that this will in very many respects be the single biggest change or advance we have seen to the practical operation of our Alliance arrangement with the United States since the Joint Facilities Program was effected in the mid 1980s. So we are taking these discussions very deliberately. While we are not rushing to judgement, I think that it would be an unambiguously good thing to extend these practical cooperation arrangements.
It is also important that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is correctly geographically positioned to meet future security and strategic challenges.
That is why I announced the ADF Posture Review in June of this year.
The need for the ADF Posture Review is driven by our strategic circumstances.
Australia’s strategic interests are overwhelmingly positioned to our north, north west and north east.
A ‘Brisbane Line’ disposition of Navy, Army or Air Force assets does not reflect the reality of where the Australian Defence Force must operate, whether for military operations or humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, or other contingencies.
As a recent Policy Analysis by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute noted:
“The ADF’s current force posture is the result of a series of decisions made when the world was quite different from today. It’s therefore appropriate to have another look at the match of resources to strategic need.”
It is appropriate to consider whether the ADF is appropriately geographically positioned to respond in a timely way to Australia’s strategic and security demands.
I am advised that this is the first stand-alone dedicated Force Posture Review that we have had for a considerable period of time.
The Review will examine strategic and security considerations including the rise of the Asia Pacific, the rise of the Indian Ocean rim as an area of strategic importance, the ongoing need for Australia to be in a position to respond to a range of contingencies including, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the Asia Pacific and the Indian Ocean and also new and modern security and strategic challenges, in particular energy security.
The Force Posture Review will assess the impact on the ADF’s Force Posture of these considerations and will make recommendations in relation to the basing options across Australia.
Two of our leading national security experts, Allan Hawke, a former Secretary of the Department of Defence, and Ric Smith, also a former Secretary of the Department of Defence, will oversee Defence’s work on the Force Posture Review.
The Defence Force Posture Review will report during the first quarter of 2012 and will form part of the security and strategic considerations for the 2014 White Paper.
This work will complement the joint work we are undertaking with the United States on the US Global Force Posture review.
New Focus Areas – Cyber, Space and Missile Defence
In keeping with our Alliance’s history of invention and innovation, Australia and the United States have committed to working together to advance our shared interests in space, cyber and missile defence.
Building upon a long history of defence space cooperation, at AUSMIN this year affirmed our support to efforts to develop a United States Australia Combined Communications Partnership, building on the Military Satellite Communications Partnership Statement of Principles signed at AUSMIN in 2008.
We also agreed to expand our close cooperation on space situational awareness and the development of transparency and confidence-building measures following the signature of the Space Situational Awareness Partnership Statement of Principles at AUSMIN 2010.
Our bilateral consultations on cyber continue to grow and deepen. At this year’s AUSMIN we recognised that cyberspace is an increasingly important medium in ensuring economic well-being and national security and agreed to promote a secure, resilient, and trusted cyberspace that ensures safe and re